Many students feel the same way when it comes to writing a personal statement. Don’t worry, we’re not going to say excited or motivated. The feeling is dread and apprehension. And these feelings are not unfounded.
It’s difficult and even nerve-wracking to craft an essay that at once provides a cohesive summary of your life experience and demonstrates why these experiences make you fit to become a doctor. It’s not an easy task, which is why it’s important to seek out medical school personal statement advice from those who have years of experience working with students and directly on admissions committees.
With thoughtful preparation and an organized approach, the medical school personal statement can be a manageable (and even enjoyable) experience. There’s joy in producing something you are proud of, which you know will strengthen your application.
After reading the following key strategies, check out our Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Medical School Personal Statement.
1 | Read Examples of Real Personal Statements
A good way to start any task is to have a clear idea of what your goal or endpoint might look like. Reading successful personal statements may provide the inspiration or direction you need. Plus, it’s worthwhile to have a roadmap based on strong past personal statements.
Don’t read a statement thinking you’ll be able to copy it; read several personal statements to understand the themes, concepts, and strategies that might be successful. Every statement is different, as each individual is unique. There’s no cookie-cutter approach that will be successful for all.
If you have a relationship with anyone who has matriculated to medical school, consider asking if they’re willing to share their statement with you as an example. Med School Insiders has a database of personal statements that successfully resulted in medical school acceptance.
2 | Reflect on Past Experiences
Start by thinking about why you want to be a doctor. What moments in your past sparked your inspiration and dedication?
Honestly, most people have the same reasons: an intellectual interest in medicine and a desire to help people. Sound familiar? It’s okay to have the same motivations as the students you’re applying with. What you need to decide is which reasons are the most important to you and how your unique life experiences will help you succeed as a doctor.
What traits do you possess that make you an outstanding candidate? These traits will be unique to each individual but should tie into the values and components of medicine which interest you. Identify 3-4 personal strengths you want to illustrate. This is a personal decision that everyone needs to come to on their own.
Consider choosing experiences that correlate to some of the following categories. This is by no means an exhaustive list—your own personal statement should reflect your personal experiences.
- Compassion/passion for patient interaction
- Intellectual curiosity for medicine (academics, research, etc.)
- Dedication and discipline
- Perseverance over adversity
- Interpersonal/professional skills
3 | Outline Before Writing
Once you have reflected on the experiences and traits that will make up your statement, create an outline to structure your approach. Generally, personal statements will follow a structure similar to the following outline. Again, your statement can certainly deviate from this, but it’s a good place to start.
- Introduction/hook. (Use a strong hook. This is often an anecdote designed to catch the reader’s attention and entice them to keep reading.)
- Experience 1
- Experience 2
- Experience 3
- Conclusion (Generally summarizes and ties back to the introductory hook/theme. It should help the reader look towards the future and leave on a high note.)
With all that said, don’t get too caught up making sure you have the perfect idea and outline before you begin writing. Sometimes the best way to begin is by just writing and seeing where it takes you. The key is starting early to ensure you have enough time for plenty of editing, revisions, and rewriting.
Learn more about the Anatomy of a Stellar Medical School Personal Statement.
4 | Show, Don’t Tell
Simply listing your traits and accomplishments can come across like another version of your CV. This approach is boring and unpersuasive. You don’t want your personal statement to read like a resume, as this will not provide the personal touch necessary for a strong statement.
Instead of telling the reader you are motivated, conscientious, and passionate about medicine, show them through clearly illustrated examples. What experiences in your life show that you are motivated or conscientious? Provide proof through thoughtful memories, anecdotes, or stories that exemplify your strengths and desire to pursue medicine.
5 | Weave a Cohesive Story
It is crucial that your personal statement reads like a cohesive story with a beginning and end. It’s not just a random list of accomplishments. Use your introductory paragraph to introduce the theme or concept central to your desire to become a physician.
Each paragraph afterward should connect to and demonstrate that central theme. End the essay with a strong concluding statement that summarizes your main points and ties back to the introduction.
The whole personal statement should be a cohesive narrative that’s easy for the reader to follow. Stories are compelling, and they entice the reader to continue reading. What story are you trying to tell? What do you want the reader to come away with?
6 | Be Stringent About Spelling and Grammar
Spelling or grammar mistakes are automatic red flags that suggest carelessness and a lack of dedication. Do not take any chances. Use spell check functions in your word processor, Grammarly, and the Hemingway App, but do not depend on those alone.
It is imperative that you have people you trust read your statement carefully. A second, third, and fourth set of human eyes can uncover the errors you or the spelling and grammar apps may have missed.
7 | Get Lots of Feedback
Feedback from multiple sources is crucial. Be sure to have multiple trustworthy people read your statement. Perhaps even more importantly, seek the advice of individuals who have experience with the process. Remember that friends and family can help you review grammar and syntax, but they are inherently biased towards you, which means they won’t provide you with the tough insights you need to succeed.
Professors, research mentors, and recent medical school applicants are all great resources. For extra help, consider enlisting more formal assistance from a personal statement editing service. Med School Insiders has an outstanding medical school personal statement editing system with experienced physicians using a systematic yet personalized approach to ensure your success.
8 | Be Yourself
At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy. Be true to yourself. Don’t exaggerate, embellish, or lie about your experiences. It will become apparent at some point in the application process, and it will not serve you well.
The best personal statements reflect a genuine and honest answer to the questions: “Why do you want to become a doctor?” And, “why are you a qualified candidate to do so?” Stay true to yourself, and it will show in both your personal statement and your interviews. Remember that you could be asked about aspects of your personal statement during the interview process, so make sure you are comfortable speaking about the experiences you share in your essay.
Personal statements are key to securing an interview invitation. Take the time to reflect on yourself and your life experiences. You want to have a strong introduction, show your passion for the field, and convincingly convey what makes you ready to start this difficult yet exciting journey.
Do not hesitate to reach out to the Med School Insiders team. We offer Comprehensive Medical School Admissions Packages, including essay editing, one-on-one advising, and application editing services.
For more advice, read our free Guide to Understanding the Medical School Application Process.